Friday 22 July 2016

Lakeland's bid to become a World Heritage Site (#lakedistrictbid)

It's been long been my belief, along with many others, that the English Lake District is one of the most scenic and picturesque areas in the world.  As Chris Bonnington, the famous mountaineer, recently suggested in an interview, other special areas of the world may, in their own unique way, equal the Lake District in their natural beauty, but nowhere exceeds it1.

Wast Water
Wast Water in the English Lake District's Wasdale Valley (Copyright Nick Thorne) 
voted "Britain's Favourite View" in a 2007 ITV poll 
For those of us who share this view, it would seem extremely appropriate for the English Lake District to receive some formal international recognition that would place it alongside some of the worlds great National Parks such as Yellowstone, the Great Himalayan and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch to name but a few.

The good news is that this may actually happen within the next year. This is because the English Lake District is in the process of a bid to become a World Heritage Site. Earlier this year, the UK Government's Department of Culture Media and Sport submitted their final nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee who administer this internationally recognised list of sites.

The bid will set out in what way the Lake District is of "Outstanding Universal Value" and demonstrate how the area meets one or more of the ten World Heritage Committee's cultural and natural criteria.  These include criteria such as whether an area is "is directly or tangibly associated with ... artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance" and/or whether the area is "... of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance".

Buttermere (Copyright: Nick Thorne).
Looking at the photograph's of Wast Water and Buttermere above, the natural beauty of the Lake District, with it's glacial valleys, lakes and fells, speaks for itself; and as far as literature is concerned, the area is inextricably linked to the Lakeland Poets of the early 19th century. One poet in this group was William Wordsworth whose work was inspired by the landscape of the area, and is known by people throughout the world.  Thousands of people come to the Lake District each year to visit his former home - Dove Cottage in Grasmere - which, along with the nearby Wordsworth museum, is open to the public.

Dove Cottage
Dove Cottage (Copyright: Christine Hasman)
So what would it mean for the English Lake District to be inscribed in the World Heritage List? Well, the original idea of the list was a way of preserving and protecting sites of world cultural and natural heritage. UN member states who ratified the World Heritage Convention, of which the UK is one, have additional responsibilities in their management of such sites. In practical terms, the Lake District is already taking care of these responsibilities as a result of it's status as a National Park, so there wouldn't need to be any great change in this regard.  

However, the local organisations who put the big together are hoping that recognition as a World heritage Site will attract additional funding and investment.  The government has, for example, pledged additional resources to help protect such sites. This could be good news to struggling Lakeland farmers who play such an important role in looking after the areas's landscape. The local organisations are also hoping that inscription on the list would elevate the Lake District National Park internationally, develop the area as an international brand on the A list of places to visit, and attract what they refer to as "cultural visitors".   It is believed that such visitors have a tendency to spend more, stay longer, and have respect for the landscape with the aim of exploring the area. They estimate that a one percent switch to cultural visitors would boost the UK economy by around £20 million a year.

So what happens next?  Well,  the World Heritage Committee will now look at the Lake District Bid and announce their decision on 31st July 2017.  In the meantime we can support the big in two main ways. Firstly, we can go to the Lake District World Heritage Bid website, and click on their "Back the Bid" button to add your 'vote'. Clicks are counted and the total is displayed on their website, thereby showing your support.  Another way is to share your "Lake District Story" by using #lakedistrictbid whenever you post Lake District related photo's, messages and video's on social media. This content is aggregated and displayed on their website's social media feed, again showing your support for the bid.  

Go to the Lake District Heritage Bid's Get Involved webpage for more information on how we can help.

Best of luck to the bid team.  Let's hope for a good result next July!


1. This interview was conducted on the summit of Castle Crag by Julie Bradbury in episode 2 of her ITV series called "Best Walks with a View" broadcast Feb 2016.  This was the general gist of Chris Bonnington's comments when asked (half jokingly) which was best: Castle Crag or Everest?

Friday 15 July 2016

How the Lake District National Park is getting bigger from next month!

Back in June I posted an article about the boundaries of Lake District, highlighting the difference between the Lake District National Park, and the county of Cumbria. You may recall how the Lake District falls within the latter county, but covers a smaller area.  You may also remember that Cumbria contains part of the another National Park, that is, the Yorkshire Dales, in addition to the whole of the Lake District.  

I included this Google Street View screenshot of the southern end  of the Howgill Fells as seen from the M6. These hills fall within the boundaries of both Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, but not the Lake District itself.

The southern Howgill Fells, Cumbria as seen from the M6.
From the 1st of August 2016, the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks are extending their boundaries! The Lake District will increase it's size by an extra 27 square miles, and the Yorkshire Dales by an extra 161 respectively.  A large part of the extension of both National Parks will occur on either side of the M6 corridor around the northern end of the Howgill Fells and beyond.  This will mean the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales will come within touching distance of one another at this location.  

The M6 as it passes between Greyrigg Pike (left) and Blease Fell in the northern Howgill Fells (right).  As from 1st August next month this stretch of motorway will separate the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks respectively.  At present this countryside does not have National Park status with all the protection and benefits that this provides. 
In addition to the east boundary extension between Birkbeck Fells Common and Whinfell Common (including the Greyrigg Pike area shown above), the Lake District National Park will also gain extra land south of Kendal.  This will stretch from Heslington Barrows to Sizergh Fell, and includes Sizergh Castle, Brigsteer, and part of the Lyth Valley.  (You can see detailed maps of the east extension area and south extension area on the Lake District National Park website by clicking these links respectively).

Cairn on Heslington Barrows.  This are is soon to become part of the Lake District National Park (Copyright: Karl & Ali)
So what does all this mean to people like us who love the Lake District and it's countryside?  Well, the Lake District National Park authority will now manage these new areas along with their existing land.  The new areas will consequently benefit from the extra care and protection that National Park status provides. In addition to this, the Lake District National Park Authority are looking at ways to open up more of the countryside in the new areas to the public. As it states on their website

"We are excited about being granted the responsibility to look after these special landscapes and explore opportunities to improve access to enable people to enjoy the beauty of these spectacular places." (Lake District National Park authority website)

Hopefully this means that, in time, we may come to see new footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, in addition to improvements and extensions to existing ones.  

So it sounds like good news for lovers of the Lake District all round!

Wednesday 6 July 2016

The Jaws of Borrowdale ???

In my last post about Seathwaite, reference was made to the Jaws of Borrowdale, located further down the valley.  As you may remember, Wainwright described this specific area as the nicest square mile in the Lake District (a fact that I hadn't realised until I was corrected by one reader).  As such, I thought it would be good to explore the Jaws of Borrowdale further in this post.

I remember driving through Borrowdale for the first time in 2004.  I had left the town of Keswick and passed the picturesque Derwent Water on my right.  The road around here was narrow and winding, bordered by moss covered dry stone walls with woods or fields on the other side.   It  makes it way along the southern edge of, what is at that point, an open and wide valley floor.  Once I passed the stone bridge near the turn off for the small village of Grange, the sides of the valley gradually started to close in on both sides.  Then the road then cut through the side of a rock buttressed hill that rose above me on the left, as it went through a narrrow gorge with the river Derwent below me to the right. On the other side of the river, the valley rose steeply again, but this time to a craggy pyramid shaped peak with wooded slopes.  This fell is Castle Crag, and the gap I was passing through is known as the Jaws of Borrowdale.

Travelling through the Jaws of Borrowdale.  Castle Crag can be seen across the River Derwent on the right.
Screen Shot taken from Google Street View
Soon the valley widened out again as I drove beside farmers fields and passed through small picturesque villages. After the turn off to Seathwaite, the road started its ascent of the Honister Pass as I left the Borrowdale valley on my way to Buttermere.

As you can see from the photograph below (which looks back down the Borrowdale Valley in the opposite direction to my journey), the Jaws of Borrowdale are formed by three fells which constrict the sides of the valley to form a gorge through which the river Derwent flows.

The jagged profile of the Jaws of Borrowdale are formed by hills of High Spy (right), Castle Crag (centre) and Grange Fell (right).   You can also see the tree lined course of the river Derwent as it meanders through the left hand side of the valley prior to passing through the gorge.  Photograph by Ann Borker
Alfred Wainwight, author of the famous Pictorial Guides, writes of the natural beauty of the area inside the Jaws of Borrowdale.  
"The [area inside] has a special significance.  It encloses one mile of country containing no high mountain, no lake, no famous crag, no tarn;  but in the authors humble submission, it encloses the loveliest square mile in Lakeland - the Jaws of Borrowdale."  (A Wainwright - A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells: Volume 6.  Chapter on Castle Crag).
Inside the Loveliest Square mile in Lakeland. Castle Crag from the River Derwent at Grange.
Photograph by Anne Bowker.

Castle Crag (Centre) by Anne Bowker.
Anyway, if you think Borrowdale looks nice (which it is), just wait till you get to Buttermere!!!